Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

Opinion

Nato puts brakes on enlargement

  • Just like the European Union, it seems that Nato is also suffering from enlargement fatigue (Photo: Nato)

Nato announced earlier this July that it is shelving plans to welcome any new members during its forthcoming Wales summit.

The hopes of four countries - Bosnia, Macedonia, Georgia and Montenegro – which were expecting to deepen their co-operation with Nato, are now all but dashed, as senior Nato officials have hit the pause button on future enlargement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Just like the European Union, it seems that Nato is also suffering from enlargement fatigue.

Unlike the Union though, Nato is shying away from even awarding the equivalent of the EU’s association agreement, namely the Membership Action Plan (MAP), to Georgia, over fears of provoking Moscow’s ire.

For all the aggressive rhetoric deployed during the Ukraine crisis, Nato seems to refuse to walk the walk.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, its outgoing secretary general, said recently that Russia is no longer a reliable partner for the West. But, apparently, nor is the West for its allies most exposed to Russia’s whims.

On top of that, France shows no signs of backing down on plans to deliver two Mistral-class frigates to Russia and (potentially) its Black Sea Fleet.

The €1.2 billion contract will endow Moscow with substantial firepower, as one Mistral can single-handedly overpower the navies of Romania or Georgia.

Admiral Vysotsky, the commander in chief of the Russian navy, even boasted that if Russia had had one such frigate at the time, the Georgian war would have ended in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.

After Nato’s Bucharest summit of 2008, when Georgia was promised full membership within an unspecified timeframe, Georgia has been a faithful ally of the West, committing, for example, the largest non-Nato contingent to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

Instead of the long-sought MAP, it will in Wales receive a “substantial package”, including training programmes and advice along with a “detailed checklist” of what the country should do to gain membership.

In Bosnia’s case, the alliance said that it is waiting for the country “to make progress in the process of becoming an Alliance member”, even though Ole-Asbjorn Fauske, a deputy commander at Nato’s Sarajevo headquarters has said that “almost all conditions for activating the MAP” have been fulfilled.

The official invoked the country’s lack of “registration of military property in state institutions” as the main obstacle.

In Macedonia’s case, its foreign minister told the Associated Press that the Nato decision “was a step backward”, although prospects for full membership are unclear, given Greece’s long-standing name dispute with its neighbour.

The situation is different in the Baltic states. On top of a tripling of the number of Nato fighters deployed there, a new airbase just opened in Estonia, which will be used for Nato exercises and training.

In a festive 4 July atmosphere, the US ambassador to Estonia declared that “in the last four months, we have had boots on the ground, planes in the air and ships at sea”.

His comments almost overshadowed statements by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite that Russia has offered to reduce oil and gas prices for the Baltic countries if they terminated their Nato membership.

In this ambivalent context, it should come as no surprise to the West to witness a decline in pro-Nato sentiment in the four aspirant countries in the Balkans and South Caucasus, who sided with the West only to receive empty words in exchange.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, Nato has looked to find a new strategic imperative.

As Europeans turned their focus inwards, defence spending and defence capabilities decreased dramatically.

Germany’s experience in Afghanistan, where it couldn’t deploy its much-needed helicopters because they were lacking sand filters, has become one ancedote among many of European underperformance. Calls to disband Nato, unthinkable in the past, have multiplied.

When Russia annexed Crimea, Nato failed to make itself heard, as heads of state chose either the European Union or their national platforms to express their views.

Despite all this, Nato is still a symbol of the West.

Unlike the Warsaw Pact, it has weathered the 1989 moment and has deployed an increasing number of missions, albeit with modest results.

But looking at events cynically, perhaps the four aspirant countries would be better off without membership.

With the West’s failure to stop Russian action in Crimea, or for that matter in Georgia in 2008, what makes us believe that Nato would jump to the rescue in the event of a new Russia-Georgia war?

In the end, Nato membership could very well be more of a cost than a benefit in 2014.

The writer is a freelance political consultant and blogger based in Slovakia

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril

Matteo Salvini's recent gambit may have failed, but, in his own words: "From today you will find me even more pissed off and determined. I will go from town to town and we will take this country back."

Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration

Brussels' current vision for cooperation on defence, where third countries can contribute but have no say in decision-making and in the guidance of operations, is unlikely to be attractive to the UK.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us